Mock Citizens’ Assembly

Want to experience a Citizens’ Assembly from the inside? Democracy Without Elections has teamed with Healthy Democracy and the Building a New Reality Foundation to put you in the middle of one!

Healthy Democracy will run a Mock Citizens’ Assembly that will be very close to the real thing. You can experience every part of a Citizens’ Assembly except that there would be no democratic lottery (sortition) to choose participants, a final report would not be written and the experience will be more compressed. There is no lottery as folks are self-selected because they want to experience a Citizens’ Assembly from the inside.

A Citizens’ Assembly must have an issue to settle, and ours will identify the best direction for our movement. Assuming only one direction could be supported at this time, should we focus on

  • using citizens’ assemblies to make recommendations to elected bodies, or
  • replacing legislators with citizens chosen by lottery

The cost for this experience is set at 3 self-selected levels: US$49, $89, $119. Pay what you can afford. If $49 is too much, contact us and we will work something out. Precocious 13 – 18 year olds are free with a paying adult.

Wonder what it would be like to be a facilitator at a Citizens’ Assembly (CA)? You can try it out as well! While it does not prepare you to be a professional facilitator, a special training session will happen prior to the Mock CA. A facilitator focuses on the meeting process and how the group is working, but does not contribute to the actual discussion. Participants in that training session will serve as novice facilitators during the Mock CA. Depending on the numbers, you would be a facilitator at times and a participant in the Mock CA. The cost for both the facilitator training and the Mock CA is, again, at 3 self-selected levels: US$99, $179, $229.

It all starts in February, and will be on Zoom on these dates:

  • February 19 (facilitator ‘training’)
  • February 26 and March 5 (Mock CA)

The times for each Saturday session are are set to include interested people in Europe, Africa, and across North and South America. All times are pegged to the United States Pacific Standard Time, so please verify the time in your own area.

  • Hawaii time: 7 – 9am, 10 – 12pm
  • Pacific US time: 9 – 11am, 12 – 2pm
  • Eastern US time: 12 – 2pm, 3 – 5pm
  • United Kingdom, Portugal, Ghana: 5 – 7pm, 8 – 10pm
  • Central Europe, Tunisia: 6 – 8pm, 9 – 11pm

There are limited spaces; click here to sign up! Contact me if you have questions.

Owen Shaffer

01shaffer@gmail.com

Democracy Without Elections

Democracy Without Elections is a U.S. 501(c)3 registered nonprofit organization.

Democracy Should Just Work

In my new post, I argue that parliamentary procedures can be eliminated with the adoption of the superminority method. The advantages of this are enormous, since legislatures are widely ridiculed for the way rules can be manipulated to advantage. Instead, the superminority rule reinforces two main principles:

  1. Procedural inevitability – Agenda items are guaranteed to reach a conclusion.
  2. Substantive uncertainty – The outcome of all agenda items is genuinely unknown when proposals are written.

Once these principles are followed, legislative politics becomes painless to the general public. Democracy just works.

Start with the State

In a new post, I argue that traditional political philosophy has been too concerned with building notions of justice and government from the individual up, and not focused enough on accepting the state as a fact and working down from there. While starting with the individual and trying to re-imagine the state has an intuitive appeal, it actually causes political philosophers to avoid applying real controls over the state in all of its contingent glory. Because of this, starting with the state as the first premise actually increases the protection afforded to individuals, by more carefully avoiding things that can go wrong with state intrusion into those freedoms.

Voting is a Community Right

In an election day post, I discuss how traditional voting and sortition can be viewed as aspects of the same right. Unifying both is the need to reverse the burden of action: while voting requires citizens to decide to vote, sortition requires proper authorities to find participants. Instead, voting in democracies now should require electoral authorities to obtain a valid vote from everyone who is eligible. At that point, calling random juries and assemblies will be a breeze.

What is a Majority?

My latest post discusses citizen juries from the perspective cognitive science. Starting with the argumentative theory of reason, I argue that final decision makers must be insulated from any requirement of justifying their decisions. This is precisely what juries do in trials: they apply a community standard, one that is inscrutable to advocates within the system, who operate on the basis of rules. The lack of such a function in democratic systems is an existential flaw that sortition must aim to correct.

The Blind Break is the Heart of Democracy

In part 4 of my legislative series, I propose a new definition of democracy, one that revolves around the blind break. The blind break is, of course, an information control mechanism, and has not usually been treated as so essential to the political project. While concepts like representation and delegation have historically been treated as essential to political theory, information flow has been treated as secondary.

In this post, I aim to correct this mistake. Political systems are information flows at their very core. We must treat constraints on those flows as central to the entire political project, right up there with separation of powers, equality under the law, and other traditional notions of political theory.

Executive Harmony

In the third post in my executive series, I explore how a pluralistic executive deals with conflict among independent office holders. While this apparatus might seem like a waste of resources, what is the cost of authoritarianism? I think it is much better to ask the question: Can’t a pluralistic executive just get along with itself?

The Jury of the Whole

In my latest post on the legislative branch, I look at what happens after a set of concrete proposals are made and published. This is the most transformative aspect of the proposal-jury model. It engages every aspect of a polity, from intellectual and business elites, to the news media, to ordinary citizens. And it is the closest that any large, modern society can come to experiencing direct democracy.

Kill The Assembly

In the first post of my series on the legislative, I discuss what is wrong with the general assembly (spoiler alert: everything). Nevertheless, in the history of the assembly there are the seeds of new growth. We can get back to a more honest, more productive assembly if we take it apart, honor its historical motivation, and rebuild it with some modern innovations.

Manuel Arriaga: Rebooting Democracy

A review of Manuel Arriaga’s Rebooting Democracy: a citizen’s guide to reinventing politics

Rebooting Democracy is a short and enjoyable book (available at Amazon; the first 50 pages are available online). Its introduction explicitly positions it as being motivated by the sentiments of the Occupy protests and the author’s proposals as responding to those sentiments. Like the Occupy protests Arriaga’s message is to a considerable extent anti-electoral:

[V]oting out one politician or party to bring in a different one will not solve our problems. Time has made it clear that this is not merely an issue of casting. If the play stinks, replacing the actors will not make it any better.

The first two chapters present an explanation of why the Western electoral system does not serve “us”. Arriaga summarizes his explanation with the following two points:

1) We have delegated power to the political class and hardly supervise it.

2) As voters, we are condemned to unreflective and easy-to-influence decision-making. Even if we were inclined to effectively supervise politicians, this would severely limit our ability to do so.

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